Express lanes threaten LBJ East expansion project

The LBJ East project is on hold after opposition from anti-toll road activists

This post was updated to include a statement by Senator Don Huffines.

LBJ from I-75 to I-30 has the dubious distinction of being the region’s most congested roadway, and officials at the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) bumped it to the top of the priority list for improvements, including Express Lanes – optional toll lanes to allow commuters to avoid the section’s frequent gridlock and move on to their destination. Construction was slated for early 2018 – so why is the LBJ project suddenly on hold?

The project has drawn opposition from anti-toll road activists including Senator Don Huffines from Dallas and Senator Bob Hall from Edgewood. Hall and Huffines have said they’ll fight any project with tolls – even optional ones – and now LBJ East is off the schedule.

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TxDOT isn’t the only agency left scrambling. For years, planners there strategized with officials at the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), Dallas County and the cities of Dallas, Garland and Mesquite. They met with neighborhood committees and business leaders to gather input. They heard statistics about the impact of the recent completion of express lanes on LBJ west of I-75, and how they spurred economic development in North Dallas, reduced traffic accidents and improved the quality of life in nearby neighborhoods.

Backers of the LBJ project have created an “LBJ Now” campaign, and you can learn more on their website here and/or Facebook page here.

Dallas City Councilman Adam McGough plans to travel to Austin on Thursday, Jan. 25th to advocate for LBJ East when the Texas Transportation Commission meets to consider the plan. He’s invited District 10 citizens to join him. You mail email his office at adam.mcgough@dallascityhall.com.

Update: Senator Don Huffines (R-Dallas) sent the following statement to Lake Highlands Advocate via email:

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“The frustrating start & stop nature of the 635E project proves that transportation planning is broken, and sorely lacking in accountability. Texas has been moving decisively away from toll roads, yet despite billions more dollars each year, local transportation bureaucrats continue to pursue an aggressive toll road agenda. It’s beyond frustrating to see local transportation bureaucrats so blatantly thwart Texas’ anti-toll road victories. Those who would force us to choose between a toll road or no road are clearly so addicted to the revenue stream provided by the tolls that they fail to see other, better solutions.

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“Advancing the project remains a top priority, and we can accomplish that without adding yet another costly toll road to drivers’ daily commute. I’ve been working closely and cooperatively with state and local transportation leaders to get this project delivered in the right way, that doesn’t deepen the divide between ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. The extreme over-saturation of toll roads and toll lanes must end. We can accomplish that goal and have 635E if transportation planners will see beyond the obvious and move beyond the tired, failed ideas of yesterday. 

“I will continue to focus on foward-thinking solutions that deliver projects for all drivers, mitigating congestion without dividing traffic by class and income levels. That starts with more accountability and making better use of the dollars we have, including an increasing focus on congestion relief in growing metropolitan areas where the most drivers are. It’s clear that planners and leaders in the transportation field need to reallocate more of our existing resources to urban and suburban areas of our state, and it’s clear that the federal government needs to give taxpayers a fair deal in terms of returns on our federal gas tax dollars.”

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